A hernia occurs when an internal organ or tissue pushes through a weak point or gap in the body's muscular wall. They typically appear in the groin, abdomen or upper thigh.
Hernias can vary in shape and size and can often be pushed back into their normal position. If you are an adult, a hernia will not go away on its own and, in most cases, will need to be surgically repaired.
Not all hernias cause pain or discomfort, but strenuous activities like heavy lifting can make symptoms worse. In severe cases, even normal activities like sneezing, urinating or having a bowel movement may cause pain.
Includes inguinal and femoral hernias
Occur when the upper stomach slides into the chest
Occur at the site of a former incision
Return after being surgically repaired
Develop at the belly button and upper abdomen, respectively
You can see the various locations of the different hernias illustrated in the image above.
This illustration of a hernia cross section shows how a piece of the bowel protrudes through the stomach wall.
The board-certified general and gastrointestinal surgeons at the Brigham and Women's Hospital Comprehensive Hernia Center have expertise in diagnosing and treating all types of hernias. They are skilled in the full range of hernia surgeries, including:
Our program also includes board-certified plastic and reconstructive surgeons who work closely with the entire team. They excel in complex abdominal wall reconstruction when direct closure is not possible. In addition, they are experts in wound healing and can help to optimize cosmetic outcomes.
All of our surgeons are:
Learn more about our surgeons.
If you have a hernia, your initial visit to our program will likely involve an evaluation at our Multidisciplinary Hernia Clinic. There, you can see a variety of hernia experts who will work together to determine the best treatment approach based on your needs and preferences.
We will work with you to address any factors that could hurt your chances of having a successful surgery and recovery. For example, if you need to:
Your doctors will also review with you what medications you currently take and advise you to stop using any that could cause surgery-related complications.
The Brigham's Hernia Program specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of incisional, umbilical, epigastric, groin and recurrent hernias. Members of our team include:
All of the medical specialists in our program have extensive experience in diagnosing and treating hernias, and we work with our colleagues throughout the hospital to optimize care for each patient. Together, we will develop a personalized treatment plan to repair your hernia and return you to pain-free living as soon as possible.
Many other hernia programs refer their most complicated cases to us, and we conduct thousands of simple and complex hernia operations each year. Multiple studies have shown that this type of high-volume experience results in better outcomes for patients.
If you and your doctor decide that surgery is the best course of action, you will likely be scheduled for a preliminary visit to or a call with the Weiner Center for Preoperative Evaluation for education and tests.
Before surgery, you will receive clear instructions on when to arrive and where to go. In the operating room, surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses with expertise in hernia repair will care for you. After surgery, you will receive comprehensive care by the experienced surgical and nursing staff in our postsurgical care unit.
Depending on the complexity of your hernia and its repair, you can expect to stay in the hospital for one day to a week after your surgery. At the Brigham, we adhere to enhanced recovery after surgery (ERAS) protocols. These evidence-based guidelines are designed to optimize hydration, nutrition and pain control, leading to faster, safer and more comfortable recovery from surgery.
Please call 617-525-9726 to schedule an appointment at one of our locations:
If you are a referring physician, please call 617-525-9995.
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